What does “chivalry” really mean?
First off, do you know what chivalry means or where the word came from? It originated some time between 1250-1300 and is the word for the rules and customs of medieval knighthood; the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms.
When you think of gentlemen today, is that what comes to mind? I don’t believe we consider “dexterity in arms” a quality our men necessarily require to be a gentleman, but perhaps it’s translated to equal talent in their industry, or skill they possess, whether that means being a quality engineer, a savvy businessman, a skilled tradesman, or what have you.
So essentially, chivalry in today’s time is what we call the ideal characteristics of a gentleman – courtesy, generosity, bravery and skill. (I’d like to add integrity, honesty, and compassion to the mix!)
So is Chivalry Dead?
Chivalry? Dead? The short answer: no. The longer answer: yes, but not entirely.
What I mean is, today’s society doesn’t seem to value the qualities of a gentleman as much as they supposedly used to. It’s quite sad, if I’m being honest. (I mean, look at who America chose as President.)
Just the other week,
I was tagging along with my sister-in-law and her friend to help one of their other friends plan a wedding. On the drive over to her house, traffic started backing up on a small two lane highway. We were about 20 cars back from the road block, and when we finally reached the impasse we realized – it was a woman in a broken down SUV.
She was at an angle blocking the road with her hazards on. We could hardly believe no one had stopped for her! So we pulled over and my SIL got out of the car to run over and ask if the woman needed help.
“Hands! We need hands!” Chandra yelled back at us.
So the three of us 5-foot-nothing ladies pushed a huge bus of an SUV over to the side of the road like it was nothing. Of course we were happy to do it, and the woman in the driver seat blessed us and thanked us for helping. You could tell she was really grateful.
But when we got back into our car, all we kept talking about was how crazy it was that it took three women to pull over to help and that no man bothered to stop.
Gentlemen used to always stop for a lady who needed help.
Especially in a small town like the one we were in. It baffled us.
Then the cherry on top of the sundae of disappointment was when we got to our friend’s house and told her fiancé what had happened. We emphasized how we just couldn’t believe three women could pull over and stop but no man bothered to. He chuckled and said “I would’ve just kept going and drove on around her.”
Things like this really make you stop and wonder – is chivalry lost? Is it truly gone for good?
The only reason I know chivalry is not completely lost (it may sound cheesy, but…) is because my fiancé James is a true gentleman. He’s the kind of guy who would pull over to help a woman change her tire or push her to the side if her car is broken down and blocking the road. He’ll always hold the door open for anyone, and will always make you feel like a lady. He’s respectful, generous, and kind.
Even K1 notices how good of a man he is. She tells my mom how “he treats Mommy so good”. When I heard that, it melted my heart!
I remember when we first started dating how cautious James was when opening my door for me all the time. He made it a point to tell me “I know you’re a strong independent woman. I don’t hold your door open because you can’t do it for yourself – I know you can – I do it because I enjoy doing things for you.” Courtesy and respecting my independence? Swoon!
Gentlemen and the Masses
But then, why are gentlemen so hard to find?
Perhaps the biggest reason we’ve become the kind of society that favors “assholes” (for lack of a better word) over “gentlemen” is because of the lack of understanding around women’s rights and equality.
There are a LOT of men who hear the words “women should be equal to men” and automatically assume they should treat women just like a man. So, they act like assholes. They don’t call, they don’t open up, the aren’t respectful, they lead you on, cheat on you, use you, take advantage of others, don’t pull their weight, use disrespectful language, are selfish… and the list goes on.
Now, I am 100% in support of women’s rights and the equality of genders, but being equal doesn’t make women into men. It doesn’t mean I want my husband to treat me the way he does his buddies. It’s not the same relationship!
Equal rights means women can vote the same as a man, hold property the same as a man, earn equal pay for equal work like a man, learn the same skills and hobbies as a man, etc.
What Women Want, Men Become
Women make it worse when they reinforce “asshole” behavior by pursuing said assholes! The guys who don’t call them back, don’t treat them with respect, the ones who are more concerned with their own image than with developing a real relationship, the boys that lead them on, or cheat on them, etc.
When James and I first started dating, I was attracted to how respectful and gentlemanly he was. It was refreshing after I’d been around so many not-so-nice guys. I remember him telling me how hard it was to date as a “nice guy” and how women so often told him they were looking for nice, but their actions proved they preferred the “asshole” behavior.
Ladies! Stop wasting your energy! The “bad boy” may look like a good time, but he’s actually a waste of time. Is that really who you want to spend the rest of your life with? Who you want to help raise your children?? Is that the kind of man you want your son to become? Or your daughter to marry?
So start filtering your search when looking for a man and focus on the gentleman who will treat you RIGHT.
Men like James (and his brother John, too!) prove that not all hope is lost. Just because society doesn’t seem to encourage or support the growth of gentlemen, doesn’t mean there aren’t any. There are plenty! We just need to know how to spot them, and teach our daughters to look for them as well!
Spotting a gentleman
Do you know what a gentleman looks like? Here are 10 ways to recognize if the guy you’re crushing on is actually a gentleman.
1. His kindness extends to everyone, not just you.
A man who is a gentleman is kind to others (especially his lady), and never rude (especially to his waiter). If a man is rude to servers, maids, or anyone he considers “beneath him” it’s a good sign he’s not a nice person (no matter how nice he pretends to be to you!).
Kindness from a gentleman includes things like pulling over to help an elderly woman change a tire, helping others carry things that are too heavy for them, and always opening doors for women. Not because he thinks, as a man, he’s stronger or better or smarter, but because he’s being kind.
2. His generosity is known and valued.
Does the man you’re crushing on have a tendency to tip well? Is he known for his eagerness to help a friend in need? Does he always offer to pay for your meal on a date, even when you both know he paid last time? (Personally, I like taking turns paying if you both have the means.)
A gentleman is generous, with his time and/or money.
3. He doesn’t hide his thoughts on your relationship.
Gentlemen communicate with you and will let you know how they feel. If your date leaves you questioning where the two of you stand, or whether he’s actually interested, then he’s not the one you’re looking for. Hiding his feelings isn’t a good look for a gentleman!
A gentleman who loves you also doesn’t hesitate to share. He doesn’t follow his friend’s footsteps in flirting with (or going after) girls at the bar when he’s committed to you. Nor does he share the picture you sent him the other night for his eyes only. He’ll make his commitment to you known – to his friends, and other women.
4. His actions prove the validity of his words.
Spotting a gentleman by his actions is often easier than through words. He prides himself on his integrity and lives by what he preaches. He’ll use his actions to reinforce what he tells you is true – from how he feels about you, to what he believes in.
A gentleman’s actions will reinforce his words of affection – whether by cooking you dinner when you’re too tired to function, buying you flowers just because he was thinking of you, filling your tank up with gas when he knows you’ll have to take the kids to school in the morning, or building you the chicken coop of your dreams. 😉
His actions should also resonate with his beliefs! If a gentleman is religious, he’ll “preach” his beliefs through the way he lives. If you can tell a man is just and compassionate by the way he acts, that’s a gentleman right there.
5. He respects others and doesn’t take things for granted.
Gentlemen respect others, including women, children, the disabled, the elderly, etc. They don’t put them down, think they’re “less than”, mock or make fun of them, or treat them like sex objects. A man worthy of the label of “gentleman” will understand that the world around them is not a mirror, and he’ll respect each and every man, woman, and child for who they are.
He also won’t take things for granted – including your relationship! If a man cheats on you, he’s disrespecting not only you but also your relationship and everything it stood for. You can drop him like a sack of potatoes, because that’s no gentleman there!
6. “Please” and “thank you” don’t escape his vocabulary.
A gentleman’s vocabulary, while not required to be expansive (although that’s a definite plus!) always includes good manners. “Please” and “thank you” are spent freely.
Not only does he use good manners, but a gentleman will know how to use his words properly in order to express himself. He’ll understand that words have meaning and be able to use them to explain thoughts and feelings, as well as correct himself when he misspeaks.
7. He looks you in the eye when you speak.
Gentlemen always look you in the eye when you speak – another part of good manners!
If a guy looks you up and down or stares at your chest when you speak, you can stop wasting your time and just walk away. That boy’s only interested in one thing. And judging by his lack of skill in the manners department, he’s probably not very good at that “one thing” either!
8. He doesn’t start a fight, but he can finish one (to protect those he loves).
A gentleman doesn’t waste his time getting riled up by nonsense; he’ll hold his tongue when an immature person speaks. However, if someone he cares about is put in the middle of something or threatened, he by all means will take control of the situation.
While this may have been through sword fighting in the medieval days, in modern society this could mean anything from martial arts to the power of verbal persuasion.
To a gentleman, it’s important to protect those he cares about, not to “look cool” by winning fights all the time. He’s assertive, but not aggressive.
9. He’s punctual, and plans ahead.
Ladies tend to make their dates wait; gentlemen, do not. If your man’s a gentleman, he’ll be on time to take you out. He’ll greet you at your door (if he honks at you from the car – don’t go with him!) and escort you out to the car.
A gentleman also plans ahead! Were you wanting to visit the new restaurant downtown? He’ll have called and made reservations. Running errands? He’s got the water bottle filled. Going to the doctor’s appointment? He remembered the insurance card. Planning a camping trip? He brought a survival kit. (Maaaybe that’s just James.)
10. Self-confident, but not arrogant.
A gentleman is self-confident. He’s secure in who he is and what he does, and is confident enough in himself that he sees no reason to “prove it” to others. He doesn’t brag or boast; a gentleman lives his life humbly. He doesn’t go blind with jealousy over your male friends because he’s confident in who he is and what you two have together.
But he’s also not arrogant – which seems to be a fine line for many men. He recognizes his own short comings and does what he can to make up for it.
Changing What’s Expected
I know there are many other possible aspects to what makes a man a gentleman, but these were the main aspects that stuck out to me in particular. I wish more men (and women!) embody more of these examples.
We as women have the ability to change what society favors based on what we favor. We can instill in our sons and support in our men the qualities that embody what “gentleman” really means. By acting respectful ourselves and expecting respect in return, raising our daughters to be ladies and sons to be gentlemen, we can change the norm!
What other characteristics do you believe make a gentleman out of a man? Let us know in the comments!
PS: If you’ve already found your gentleman suitor, you may be interested in a previous post where I shared 50+ Date Ideas that Fit your Love Language.
Join the KAM Fam!
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter packed full with members-only goodies!
Learn the little truths and big wins behind our blogging adventure, and stay up-to-date on giveaways, contests, and updates from KAM (and our partners)!
Next - check your email! (And your spam folder!)